The death of soul queen Aretha Franklin on Thursday marked the passing of the last of the great musical icons of cult comedy movie “The Blues Brothers.
“The 1980 film told the fictionalized story of the real-life Blues Brothers — an American revivalist band founded by comedy actors Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi for NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” sketch show.
“The Blues Brothers” went on to become one of the best known musical movies in history, noted for the array of stars who put in cameos while brothers Jake and Elwood get the band back together.
Here are some of the musical heavy-hitters who graced the movie before boarding the big Soul Train in the sky.
– James Brown –
Aretha was the “queen of soul” but Brown was known as its “godfather,” as well as “Soul Brother Number One” and “The Hardest Working Man in Showbusiness.”
Brown, who appeared in more than a dozen movies, took the role in “The Blues Brothers” of the Reverend Cleophus James, who delivers a sermon at the embattled Triple Rock Baptist Church.
The singer was 73 when he died of heart failure on Christmas Day in 2006, after a colorful childhood growing up in a brothel, time in prison and a musical career that brought him acclaim and riches.
– Ray Charles –
Charles — a musical instruments store owner in the movie who performs “Shake a Tail Feather” and “Jailhouse Rock” with Jake, Elwood and many of the cast’s music stars — needs little introduction.
The soul great, who died in 2004, was instrumental in defining a subset of the genre which took traditional African American gospel music and infused it with rhythm and blues and jazz.
Blind since childhood, the singer and pianist was one of the first African American artists to cross over to white audiences on a wide scale and control over his own musical output at a major record label.
– Cab Calloway –
Legendary jazz singer and band leader Calloway, who died at age 86 in 1994, played Curtis, a janitor at the orphanage where the brothers grew up and a mentor who taught them the blues.
The frenetic performer, known as “Hi De Ho” man, led one of the greatest bands of the swing era and was known for his appearances at Harlem’s iconic Cotton Club, and for the million-selling “Minnie The Moocher.”
– John Lee Hooker –
The word “legend” can be overused but applies in spades to much of the “Blues Brothers” cast, and not least to vocalist and guitarist Hooker, who played the South Side Chicago busker Street Slim.
It was a small part but the “Father of Boogie,” who was born 101 years ago and died in 2001, is remembered for his rousing performance of “Boom Boom” in front of the Soul Food Cafe.
It is his only acting credit, although his music has appeared on numerous movie soundtracks, including “The Waterboy” and “G.I. Jane,” while he or his songs often turned up in commercials.
– Matt ‘Guitar’ Murphy –
One of the original members of The Blues Brothers band — Murphy died at 88 at his home in Miami, Florida in June.
In the film he plays himself opposite Franklin as his sassy but long-suffering wife. The pair share the movie’s iconic Soul Food cafe scene, but it was Franklin who turned heads with her soaring rendition of the song “Think.”
Murphy’s character ended the movie in jail, but 18 years later the actor and his character returned with the band for Blues Brothers 2000, in which he shared another scene with Franklin.
– And the regular actors –
Many big names from straightforward acting backgrounds have died since the release, including John Candy, Carrie Fisher, Charles Napier and, of course, John Belushi himself.